Flattening the curv, ... ]

Flattening the curv, ... ] iStock/FreshSplash

Going Virtual: How Federal Agencies Are Embracing the Hybrid Workforce

As federal agencies look ahead to life after COVID-19, they are coming to terms with the fact that the office will look a lot different than it did before 2020. Here’s how personnel managers can fully embrace the future of work.

Presented by Accenture

For agencies across the federal government, the conventional workplace experience is becoming obsolete — and in many ways that’s likely to be a good thing.

Before the pandemic, the ability to recruit, hire and support remote employees was limited and nowhere near the scale needed to stand up a virtual workforce across multiple agencies and nationwide. But today, agencies are working to support a highly disparate workforce, as remote work has become a new way of life for millions of employees. It’s a change in experience and expectations that will alter the nature of work far beyond the current crisis.

The move to an increasingly virtual workplace has emphasized the need for agencies to adopt modern HR approaches that prioritize the candidate and employee experience. By building on proven commercial best practices and harnessing the possibilities of new tools and technologies, HR leaders can play a pivotal role in serving their employees and the mission. They can also help meet growing calls for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment.

“As we start to look at a post-pandemic workforce, we shouldn’t just be looking for a ‘return to normal,’” says Kristen Vaughan, managing director and human capital lead at Accenture Federal Services. “We should be looking at how we can return to something even better.”

Agencies Embrace the Office of the Future

Pre-pandemic, new employees depended heavily on shoulder-to-shoulder engagement in the office, with more seasoned workers to help them get up-to-speed. Now, that knowledge transfer has to happen in different ways, while still prioritizing a sense of team-building and camaraderie, says Jen Sadosky, senior manager for human capital at Accenture Federal Services.

Agencies need to embrace these remote ways of working by formalizing temporary policies which proved effective to their business and desirable to their employees. Agencies like the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have acted quickly to rethink existing telework policy and develop a path to fully remote employment for most positions, eliminating geographical ties to brick-and-mortar worksites. 

While improving the existing employee experience and desirability to the next generation of employees, USCIS is working with the General Services Administration (GSA) to drastically reduce its physical facility presence, estimating savings of tens of millions of dollars annually per site.

“For a while, when the pandemic first hit, onboarding trainings completely stopped in some agencies simply because they didn’t have policies or technologies in place to facilitate it,” Sadosky says. “Now, those are starting to come back online as these agencies begin moving their HR tools to new technologies that can support remote workforce onboarding and management.” 

A Modern Candidate Experience

Job interviews and onboarding have traditionally been an in-person requirement for most positions. But with a largely remote workforce and emerging collaboration technologies, federal agencies are realizing that some online processes are actually more efficient. There’s even been a shift toward virtual interviewing that many believe will outlive the pandemic.

“Yes, you may be missing out on a little bit of body language, but you can still get a very good read on a person, and you can have their resume pulled up on one screen while still being able to keep eye contact with them so that the interviewee feels more comfortable during the process,” says Vaughan.

Virtual interviewing also allows for people to be considered for jobs no matter where they are, meaning the pool of candidates is larger and the interviewing costs are lower than they used to be (no longer requiring organizations to pay for a candidate's transportation or lodging, for instance).

Beyond participation in virtual interviews, new candidates can also complete assessments online — another advantage to HR managers. These online assessments can help identify the candidates that align most closely with an agency’s needs, competencies and position requirements. Assessments can also be conducted in various times in the recruitment and hiring process. 

“You can actually be more efficient and it’s more convenient for everyone with a virtual hiring process,” Sadosky says. 

Postings for remote jobs result in a much larger talent pipeline and a significant uptick in the number of applications received. As a result, agencies are seeing an increased need to quickly and easily identify top candidates. That’s where emerging technologies like advanced analytics and artificial intelligence come into play.

“Taking away the obstacles to applying opens the aperture for more qualifying candidates, but that necessitates putting the right tools in place so that we don’t overwhelm the system,” Vaughan says. “Already, it takes the federal government something like 100 days for every hire, whereas it only takes an average of 45 days in the private sector. The right tools will mean that time doesn’t become even longer.”

Much like Amazon and other retail sites that use AI and predictive analytics to target customers based on their interests, there is a new demand for dashboards and tools that focus on personalizing the candidate experience — all while allowing HR managers to sift through large amounts of data to get to decisions faster. 

“Candidate and employee experience is huge,” Sadosky says. “Implementing technology that makes data more readily available, and having a strategy for how to make that data actionable for key leaders, empowers better and faster decision making.” 

A Path Forward for Remote Government

When it comes to enabling a remote government workforce, one critical component of success will be the ability to swiftly implement new policies while leveraging technology.

“This past winter, we were still announcing the closure of entire offices for snow days when almost everyone was already at home and able to continue working,” says Maurine Fanguy, managing director and Homeland Security client account lead at Accenture Federal Services. “The reason that happens is because a policy within an agency hasn’t caught up with the realities of this shift in remote working.”

It has been a year since agencies moved to an almost fully remote workforce, and the time is ripe for taking stock of lessons learned. This means implementing changes so agencies can seamlessly transition back to a hybrid model as things begin to open back up.

“The 8-hour workday is gone,” Fanguy says. “Everyone has been impacted, and you have to be accommodating of both the person working at home with children needing help with school and the person who is living alone and needs more interaction to feel bonded to a team. You have to gel those needs together to still find ways to facilitate relationship development within your team.” 

Agencies are adopting new tools that will improve how they communicate within a hybrid workforce. For Accenture, that means helping government customers implement these technologies and address other challenges that may arise.

“Change management practices are still required when we implement these new tools,” Sadosky says. “We include engaging practices to keep stakeholders aware, informed, and bought into new changes. We also have to help them adopt technology to improve mission outcomes. more user-centric solutions that tailor user experience. We’re adding [software-as-a-service] learning tools for training and helping agencies improve HR reporting and data analytics through visualizations and insights dashboards. It’s going to be HR that has to track things like workforce location and COVID vaccinations going forward.”

The new demands have also led to agencies having to rethink and restructure their cultural and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs in an environment where employees aren’t centrally located. “It’s about creating a sense of community and inclusion even in a virtual world, which requires much more planning and effort,” says Vaughan.

Even with the growing awareness of electronic fatigue from online meetings, the advantages of a remote workforce are myriad, and many forced into working from home a year ago no longer want to return to a traditional office environment. In fact, a report released by Forrester in late 2020 shows more than18 million American workers will continue working remotely after the pandemic. 

“The pandemic caused leadership within government agencies to focus on being truly human, keeping an eye on the workforce, understanding their feedback and incorporating that into employee programs,” Sadosky says. “Agencies have been forced to truly listen to their workforce and make change quickly to meet those needs. Those are all improvements that we see continuing to be important in the years ahead.”

“We used to focus on engagement and wellness. It used to be about work-life balance,” Fanguy adds. “The pandemic made it about balancing life.”

This content is made possible by our sponsor, Accenture. The editorial staff was not involved in its preparation.

NEXT STORY: Scaling Mission-Oriented Change in the Golden Age of Innovation

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.